“Our brains are getting a little bit out of hand,” a former police officer told a Gore audience on Wednesday.
Now a personal coach, Lance Burdett spent about 20 years in the police and now speaks about the brain and teaches people how to handle the pressure of modern living.
Southland Rural Trust and the Ministry for Primary Industries sponsored Mr Burdett’s trip to Gore, where he spoke at two functions at the Heartland Hotel Croydon.
About 200 people attended either the afternoon session on Wednesday or the breakfast on Thursday morning.
Mr Burdett said everyone had a voice inside their head that was always speaking.
“The one message I want you to start thinking about is what you are thinking about, because we’ve lost control of our thoughts,” Mr Burdett said.
The pressure of everyday living was overwhelming the brain.
“We’re overloaded with information, too many choices.”
Even when buying a coffee, there were many choices.
“That’s making our brains go faster than ever before.
“Our brains are spinning.
“We have trouble slowing our brains down, we have trouble going to sleep at night because we have too much going on.”
The part of the brain that was designed to warn the body of danger was part of the problem.
“Your brain is wired to look for danger; not only that, it is wired to exaggerate it,” Mr Burdett said.
Exaggerating a problem allowed the brain to resolve issues.
However, if the brain did not come up with a solution, the thoughts in a person’s head turned to self-blame.
“The longer something stays inside your head, the greater the exaggeration of the negative.
“We are our own worst enemy.”
This part of the brain also determined whether a person would fight or run from the danger.
“The reason why anger is your default setting when you get into emotional situations is to defend yourself.
“If we feel something is attacking us, we launch at it and we do that with anger .. and that is why people are angrier today than ever before.”
Another problem people had was too high an expectation of themselves.
“We want to achieve, we want to do better … we put ourselves under way too much pressure.”
When people did not achieve what they expected, they thought they were a failure.
“We beat ourselves up for things that we shouldn’t really beat ourselves up for.”
Once people became aware of how the brain worked and what they were thinking, they could take steps to change their self-talk, Mr Burdett said.
“Who is the only person who can help you? Yourself.
“If you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, what is that?”
He had many tips to help people deal with the stress in their lives.
Sometimes when people were under pressure they felt as if they had an overwhelming number of issues to deal with but in reality there were probably only a few.
“You will have no more than five things going on in your head because your brain cannot take that many.
“What you are doing is you are swapping between those five things and it makes it seem like there’s 50,” Mr Burdett said.
His advice to people was write down the thoughts that were racing around their brains.
“Writing is the best thing you can do .. it starts to clear your brain.”
Eating well and exercising were important to having good mental health.
“The better you eat, the better you exercise, the better you think.”
Different types of breathing could be helpful.
Counting to four while inhaling, holding the breath and exhaling could help in stressful situations where a person was tempted to get angry.
Sometimes people were given the advice count to 10 or take a deep breath when feeling angry but it was better to combine the two.
“Count to 10 doesn’t work, take a deep breath together, miracles happen.”
Inhaling a breath for six seconds and then exhaling for six seconds was a good way to calm down when stressed.
“Do that twice a day for two minutes and when you are feeling overwhelmed.”
Hugging someone released oxytocin, which made people feel better.
“Men don’t hug men enough.”
Sometimes when people were going through a hard time they were reluctant to open up in case it started something they could not control.
“Open up the tap as wide as you can and let it out.